EMA Event Spotlights Digital Delivery

The over-the-top market is exploding, and the Entertainment Merchants Association this year at its annual Los Angeles conference gave it a starring role.

The OTT_X conference, focusing on the OTT market, ran July 16-17 concurrent with the eighth annual Los Angeles Entertainment Summit presented by the EMA. In addition to OTT panels and spotlight presentations, the EMA facilitated OTT business meetings in addition to meetings scheduled for LAES participants. The joint event attracted about 400 attendees.

The new focus is part of a bigger shift for the EMA.

“It was really apparent last year that the event needed to change,” said EMA CEO and president Mark Fisher July 16 in opening remarks, adding “as the industry changes so does the EMA.”

“We’ve intentionally shed our support and income from the video game segment,” he said, to be more focused. The organization has also shed physical retail members and distributors.

“It’s a pivot,” he said, but “we’re not going to leave behind the TVOD space.”

A leader in that transactional VOD market, FandangoNow chief Cameron Douglas, also chair of the EMA board, noted the annual confab “used to be an event with meetings between retailers and studios.”

Now, the EMA, via its Ultimate Movie Weekend promotion, is promoting cooperation between studios and digital retailers.

“Who would have thought there would be a major studio backed campaign — except Fox and Disney — that was focused on rental instead of EST,” Douglas said.

Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks and chair of the OTT_X  conference, explained the name in opening remarks.

“The X in the name really reflects the core mission of why we’re all here today,” he said. “It’s an exchange. First and foremost, it’s an exchange of ideas.”

Such collaboration is crucial in an era of fast digital disruption.

“These changes are happening so frequently and at such a precipitous pace, the only way we can come out of this is by fostering a community,” he said.

Key challenges for OTT video platforms are customer acquisition and retention, monetization and content discovery, according to speakers at OTT_X.

Having original content is one way OTT platforms are meeting these challenges, said presenter Kathi Chandler-Payatt, executive director and entertainment analyst, The NPD Group. Using Netflix Originals as a case study, she noted that while both original movies and episodic shows are a small percentage of content on Netflix, they garner an outsized share of viewing. Originals made up 16% of new seasons vs. licensed in 2019, but those originals garnered a prodigious 24% of minutes watched. The same holds true for original movies, which are 11% of content and 22% of minutes.

Part of the reason for the uptake of originals is preferential marketing, she noted.

“It’s very smart from a platform perspective to push originals,” she said because the platform owns it. Thus, making a show with Netflix may give content producers a leg up in discovery.

“People think content is king, but discovery is king,” she said.

Originals have a short window to prove themselves, she said. She quoted Netflix VP of originals Cindy Holland as saying that the service generally knows within 28 days whether a new show or season meets Netflix’s expectations in terms of audience reach. In addition to viewership during that period, metrics such as season completion also figure in renewal.

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OTT_X event chair Opeka moderated the panel “Monetization Trends in OTT.” Ad-supported VOD streaming services, such as Xumo, whose CEO Colin Petrie-Norris was on the panel, are ascendant, many speakers noted. Xumo has 160 curated channels and 40 million households in the United States, Petrie-Norris said.

AVOD “can generate very high yield per consumer” with advertising, he said.

Tubi chief content officer Adam Lewinson also cited the growth of AVOD in a keynote presentatoin. AVOD aggregator Tubi has 20 million monthly active users, with 100 million minutes streamed in June and well over 15,000 titles or 44,000 hours of content, “more than double the content volume of Netflix,” he said. June yielded its largest revenue month ever, he said.

“AVOD is for real,” he said.

There are challenges, however.

“The biggest challenge in streaming right now … in all VODs, it’s really about customer acquisition, retention and churn,” he said. “A subset to that is content discovery. Once you crack those problems, that’s when you get to scale.”

A seamless experience on the platform is also “incredibly important,” he said, “just having a seamless experience where the tech fades away.”

“You also want to be ubiquitious,” he said. “You do want to be everywhere that people are streaming.”

Tubi has also employed machine learning in its proprietary content personalization engine.

“The more data that we have on our viewers the more we are able to personalize,” he said.

A key advantage to AVOD is the “barrier to entry is so low” because viewers don’t have to pay, he said.

As for Tubi getting into original programming like its paid SVOD counterparts, “we have no intention of going down that road,” he said. “It’s tremendously competitive. You wind up overpaying for content.”

There is already too much content, he noted.

“Original series are just whizzing by at an epic pace,” he said.

That doesn’t mean Tubi isn’t willing to spend on content.

“I have a nine-figure content budget for the year, and we’re spending it,” he said.

On a panel about windowing of content, Paul Colichman, CEO of Here Media, said he was “worried that [AVOD is] the emperor’s new clothes,” a false hope of a monetary savior, noting the amount of revenue that trickles down to content producers who license their titles to such services is small.

Still, competition from increased content is pushing content owners to find new outlets.

“It used to take years for us to put up content on AVOD,” said Cinedigm’s Natasha Pietruschka, adding that now, “Where else can we fill those revenue gaps?”

Transactional digital retailers took the stage during the LAES session. Panelists noted that since consumers are paying directly for content, whether for rental or purchase, the key concern for TVOD platforms is making that experience seamless and easy and the quality top notch.

“The bar is so high because you have paid specifically for that title whether rental or purchase,” said FandangoNow’s Douglas, who was on the transactional panel. “It better play.”

He said FandangoNow has concentrated on making the viewing experience top-quality with extensive 4K offerings and a living room app that rivals any.

While Redbox has made its name on physical disc rentals, Chris Yates, GM of Redbox On Demand, said the new digital sales and rental arm doesn’t cannibalize that core business, it supplements it. It offers a choice when consumers don’t want to go to a kiosk and has resulted in “improved affinity for our brand,” he said.

Speakers at both events discussed the looming launch of new SVOD services, including Walt Disney Co.’s $6.99 Disney+.

Disney is “out in front of the others,” said IHS Markit’s Sarah Henschel during a research presentation. Awareness of the service jumped from 24% in Q1 to 35% in Q2 even before the Disney marketing machine really gets rolling, she said.

The firm expects upcoming services to add 36.7 million paying domestic subs by 2023.

“I think Disney and Apple [with its pending SVOD service Apple TV+] have a leg up because they are already consumer facing brands,” Henschel said. “Disney has the strongest hold in my opinion right now.”

When asked how many in the audience would buy the new service when it launches, the majority of attendees raised their hands.

EMA’s LAES and OTT Conferences Kick Off July 16

The Entertainment Merchants Association will hold its annual Los Angeles Entertainment Summit at the Hilton Universal City starting July 16, along with a concurrent conference OTT_X covering the over-the-top market.

Events begin at 9 a.m. following a network breakfast with an introduction from EMA president and CEO Mark Fisher and OTT_X chair Erick Opeka of Cinedigm.

Erick Opeka

For the OTT_X conference, panels in the morning include “Monetization Trends in OTT” and “Windowing 2.0: Key Strategies for Enhancing Content Value & Revenue.” At 11:30 Tubi CCO Adam Lewison will participate in the fireside chat/keynote “AVOD at Scale.”

The LAES program kicks off after lunch. It includes the panel “Consumer View of Digital Entertainment,” two research sessions and the panel “Retailers and Consumer-Facing Services.”

The evening concludes with a cocktail party at 6 p.m. at the Hilton pool sponsored by FandangoNow.

July 17 includes OTT_X business meetings and presentations, as well as discussions on four tracks: EMA Retailing Council, Digital Supply Chain (retailers track), Digital Supply Chain (specialized track) and OTT_X Workshops. Round robin buyer/seller meetings take place from 3-5 p.m.

Register here.

The complete schedule is here.

Industry Golf Tournament, Benefiting CF Foundation, Returns July 15

A popular entertainment industry golf tournament benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is back.

Industry veteran Mark Horak, who produced the annual golf tournament as part of the annual Los Angeles Entertainment Summit (LAES) trade show from 2012 to 2017, is once again inviting studio executives, content distributors and other industry players to a day on the greens.

This year’s golf tournament will be held on July 15, the Monday prior to the ninth annual LAES and OTT Conference, produced by the Entertainment Merchants Association.

The event will be held at the North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village, an exclusive country club with 27 championship holes.

Attendees will include executives from the major and independent studios involved with the production and distribution of content, retailers and distributors of digital and physical content, consumer electronics manufacturers and various suppliers of supporting products and services for the media and entertainment industry.  Confirmed attendees include Google Play, Warner, Transworld, Redbox, Deloitte, DTS and others.

All proceeds will go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation – a cause near and dear to the heart of Horak, who has two daughters with cystic fibrosis, a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time.

Horak, a former high-ranking executive at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Redbox, said that through the LAES and golf tournament, the industry has raised nearly $2 million for the charity.

“LAES and the golf tournament are a great place for industry executives, distributors and vendors who value the chance to network and socialize with key clients and fellow industry executives they might not see in person very often,” Horak said. “Bringing the golf tournament back provides a great networking opportunity in a fun, casual environment and provides important financial support for the CF community”.

Registration for the event opens at 9:30 a.m., with a four-man “Best Ball Scramble” tournament with various skill contests and prizes from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The day concludes with a cocktail networking reception silent auction, followed by a plated dinner, a live auction and an awards presentation honoring key industry leaders and influencers who are driving the future successes of media and entertainment and helping raise awareness and funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Various sponsorships are available, ranging in price from $2,000 to $25,000. The individual participant rate is $350 or $500 with a tee sponsorship.

For more information, or to sign up, click here.

 

LAES: OTT About Change, Speakers Say

While there are many forms of over the top, or OTT, distribution, the term OTT is ultimately a “signifier for change” in the entertainment marketplace, said Erick Opeka, EVP of digital networks at Cinedigm July 17 at the OTT Channels Conference. The conference, which Opeka chaired, took place during the Los Angeles Entertainment Summit, produced by the Entertainment Merchants Association.

Speakers on the panel, “OTT 2022: Prognosticating the Future,” discussed the varied landscape for OTT players, from paid subscription to free ad-supported distribution, and the dominance of goliaths such as Netflix.

Panelists speculated about where Netflix would be in the next five years.

“They will look much bigger,” said Pluto TV’s Jeff Shultz. “It will be much harder for anyone to catch them given the lead they have created.”

Neil Davis of Ucast TV speculated that Netflix would be acquired by Apple, and Roku’s Randy Ahn quipped that it would be owned by Roku.

Meanwhile, National Research Group’s Jeff Hall said it would be continuing to expand internationally.

Many panelists noted the many opportunities for international growth of OTT.

Content on Indian knitting patterns can find an audience in India, Hall noted.

“Listen to the consumer,” he said.

Panelists also discussed ways to compete in a market dominated by the likes of Netflix, Amazon and other giants.

“It’s really challenging for an independent to find a place,” Davis said.

Content discovery is key, noted Ahn.

“We make it easy for publishers to build channels,” he said, noting that the Roku Channel is “essentially like a supermarket endcap” for OTT distribution, making it easier for consumers to use and discover OTT content.

Having a strong brand can also be a help “if the brand is important enough,” Shultz said.

HBO’s online service “has a chance to be a Netflix-like brand,” Hall said.

Panelists also addressed the impending Walt Disney Co. streaming service.

“I think they are going to have a harder time than I would like them to have,” Hall said, noting the service would have to expand beyond family programming.

Meanwhile, Ahn said Disney could “potentially redefine entertainment,” and Shultz, noting Disney’s valuable IP, wondered “at what expense it will come to Netflix.”

In another presentation, Tubi’s Adam Lewinson called his AVOD service “free Netflix” and noted it had accumulated 8,000 movies and series, using machine learning to help each piece of content find its audience.

Targeting a niche is also a way to find an OTT audience, noted Here Media’s Paul Colichman on another panel.

“Anyone who’s trying to compete with Netflix [with its wide appeal] should go home now,” he said.

Speakers agreed that OTT has put traditional TV on a path of decline.

IHS Markit research analyst Dan Cryan told the audience that 2016 was the peak of traditional TV.

“In five years, we won’t be talking over the top because it will all be over the top,” said Pluto TV’s Shultz.

The Entertainment Merchants Association Hosts Seventh Annual LAES

The seventh annual Los Angeles Entertainment Summit, presented by the Entertainment Merchants Association, took place July 17-18 at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. The event included panels, speakers, awards, an OTT Channels Conference and a cocktail party sponsored by FandangoNow, which included a silent auction to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Seventh Annual Los Angeles Entertainment Summit Opens Tomorrow

The seventh annual Los Angeles Entertainment Summit opens tomorrow (Tuesday, July 16) with a focus on independent product, both physical and digital, as well as the booming OTT marketplace.

The trade show, produced by the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), runs for two days at the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Hollywood, Calif.

The 2018 Los Angeles Entertainment Summit is centered on one-on-one business meetings between independent content providers and retailers and streaming services, the EMA said back in May, when the event’s dates were announced.

The summit also features the  first-ever OTT Channels conference – a day of research presentations, sessions with industry thought leaders, and an exploration of opportunities in subscription video on demand and ad-supported video on demand.

LAES continues to provide an opportunity for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) to raise funds.

The event opens July 17 with a morning welcome session, featuring a CFF update from LAES co-chair Mark Horak and an EMA update from Mark Fisher, the association’s president and CEO.

Then comes a research super-session moderated by Media Play News publisher Thomas K. Arnold, featuring research presentations by GfK Entertainment, IHS Markit, Nielsen and the NPD Group.

Next is a spotlight presentation from Tobias Queesser, cofounder of Cinelytic.

Bill Sondheim, president of the Cinedigm Entertainment Group, will deliver the keynote address at 9:30 a.m., followed by the Independent Studio Home Entertainment Awards.

The OTT Channels conference will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with a lineup of speakers and panelists assembled by conference chair Erick Opeka, EVP of digital networks at Cinedigm Corp.

And from 4 to 6 p.m., the Digital EMA Forum will bring together digital retailers, studios, independent content providers, and service providers to hear the latest research on digital home entertainment and discover how retailers and content providers are streamlining the digital supply chain through common practices.

The day ends with a cocktail party sponsored by FandangoNOW.

Day two of LAES, Wednesday, July 18, is devoted to business meetings and a networking lunch.

7th Annual LAES to Focus on Indie Product, OTT

The Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) has revamped this year’s Los Angeles Entertainment Summit (LAES) to focus on independent product, both physical and digital, as well as the booming OTT marketplace.

The seventh annual LAES will be held July 17-18 at the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Hollywood, Calif.

The 2018 Los Angeles Entertainment Summit will feature two days of one-on-one business-to-business meetings between independent content providers and retailers and streaming services, the EMA announced May 9.

Supplementing that will be the first-ever OTT Channels conference – a day of research presentations, sessions with industry thought leaders, and an exploration of opportunities in subscription video on demand and ad-supported video on demand.

“And, as always, LAES will provide plenty of networking and socializing opportunities,” the EMA said.

In conjunction with LAES, Digital EMA will present a Digital EMA Forum focused on streaming video.

LAES will continue to provide an opportunity for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to raise funds.

“In discussions with a number of industry executives, it became clear to us that there was a longing for an opportunity for independent product to gain greater exposure and for a forum for SVOD and AVOD OTT channel executives to gather and share knowledge,”said Mark Fisher, president CEO of EMA. “So we decided to focus this year’s LAES on those areas and help grow these important segments of our industry.”